Wimbledon expansion plans rejected by Wandsworth council
A London council has rejected plans to build a new 8,000-seat stadium and 38 further tennis courts on a Grade II*-listed park in Wimbledon.
Wandsworth council’s planning committee on Tuesday night voted unanimously to reject the All England Lawn Tennis Club’s plans to almost triple the size of the tennis championship grounds from 17 hectares (42 acres) to 46 hectares.
The councillors agreed with Wandsworth’s planning officers’ recommendation that the proposal be refused as it would “cause substantial harm to the openness of metropolitan open land”.
Applause broke out in the public gallery when councillors voted 7-0 to reject the All England Club’s plans after more than two and a half hours of debate. Campaigners have described the club’s proposals – which include a nine-storey stadium, more than 9km [5.5 miles] of roads, 10 maintenance hubs and 38 new grass courts on Wimbledon Park – as creating an “industrial tennis complex”.
Guy Humphries, a Conservative councillor for the Southfields ward, said he could not recall any other “planning application that has upset so many people for so many reasons”.
Humphries said the All England “fails desperately” in its claim that there are “very special circumstances” that should allow it to build on Wimbledon Park, which is designated as metropolitan open land and was first designed by Capability Brown in the 18th century.
The All England Club had argued that it desperately needs to expand and increase its facilities to ensure that the Wimbledon grand slam “remains the world’s premier tennis tournament”.
Ravi Govindia, a councillor for East Putney and former leader of Wandsworth council, said the All England prides itself on the serenity of its grounds but the plans “are going away from tennis in English country garden”. “As much as I would like to see this investment in the area this is not the way to do it,” he added.
The 155-year-old All England Club succeeded last month in winning the approval of the planning committee of the neighbouring authority, Merton, but a small triangle of the park lies within Wandsworth’s boundaries. The All England requires the permission of both councils and the mayor of London (and possibly Michael Gove, the secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities) in order to go ahead with the project.
Sally Bolton, chief executive of the All England Club, said: “Naturally, we are disappointed by the London Borough of Wandsworth’s decision. Our proposals will deliver one of the greatest sporting transformations for London since 2012, alongside substantial benefits for the local community.
“We firmly believe the AELTC Wimbledon Park Project offers significant social, economic and environmental improvements, including turning 23 acres of previously private land into a new public park, alongside hundreds of jobs and tens of millions of pounds in economic benefits for our neighbours in Wandsworth, Merton and across London.
“Given the split council decision, with the London Borough of Merton resolving to approve our application last month, our planning application will now be referred to the mayor of London’s office for consideration.”